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Bipartisan police, criminal justice reform bill banning chokeholds signed into law

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A massive bipartisan criminal justice and police reform package banning chokeholds and opening up eligibility for the Kansas City police force cleared its final hurdle Wednesday with Gov. Mike Parson’s signature. 

From Sens. Tony Luetkemeyer and Brian Williams, SBs 53 & 60 was perhaps one of the greatest examples of bipartisan hustle in the legislature this year. 

It’s a cornucopia of police and criminal justice reform provisions, implementing stress management programs for officers, folding pets into orders of protection, increasing the charge for doxxing a law enforcement officer, and mandating juveniles are separated from adult inmates in prison — among a myriad of other things. 

One of the more well-known provisions of the bill broadens the residency requirement for Kansas City police officers to within 60 miles of the nearest city limits. It also bans respiratory chokeholds — a provision Williams passionately shepherded throughout the legislative process in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. 

“I grew up in Ferguson and in 2018, became the first Black man elected to the state Senate in 20 years,” Williams said. “I know that George Floyd could have easily been me or any of the countless Black men and women who live in our state. Without a doubt, this new law will save Black lives and make Missouri’s streets safer for everyone.” 

Luetkemeyer noted the bill had the backing of law enforcement groups as both he and Williams collaborated with interested parties. 

“The last year and half has been a tough time for law enforcement. I’m proud the legislature was able to come together to show our support for the men and women in uniform,” Luetkemeyer told The Missouri Times. “This bill will increase officer recruitment in the state’s largest police department, support our local sheriffs, and protect officers and their families from being harassed online by radical groups.”

Additionally, the bill opens eligibility for certain expungements, provides free feminine hygiene products to inmates, and raises sheriffs’ salaries. 

The package also establishes a stress management program for officers who might need help coping with trauma, requires the statewide coordinator for the sexual assault examination telehealth network to regularly consult with clinicians and others regarding training programs, and modifies the definition of “stalking” to include third-party sources such as technology. 

It waives the fees associated with a veterans treatment court for someone who was honorably discharged from any military branch, protects the address of special victims, and increases the penalties for officers who engage in sexual conduct with someone in their custody. 

“No one employed in a position to protect and serve should engage in sexual conduct while on duty with a person who is in the custody of law enforcement. This should be considered a crime, and on Aug. 28, it will be,” said Jennifer Carter Dochler, public policy director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV), said. “We are so grateful to all of the legislators who supported this bill.”

The bill also includes changes made to orders of protection — a topic largely discussed in the legislative session. It allows a court to issue lifetime orders of protection in certain cases.

Additionally, the bipartisan package gives a prosecuting or circuit attorney the ability to file a motion to vacate or set aside a judgment if information arises to suggest an individual was wrongly convicted. It allows someone to file for an expungement after three years (down from seven years) for a felony offense and one year (down from three years) for a misdemeanor. If a person’s record has been expunged, any rights that had been stripped from the individual shall be restored, according to the bill. 

The legislation also establishes only an affirmative defense would be needed if a law enforcement officer failed to execute a warrant for a misdemeanor traffic violation. It establishes a Class A misdemeanor offense for someone who directs a laser pointer at a first responder or other uniformed safety officers. 

It also tackles juvenile cases. It says individuals who are under the age of 18 can remain in juvenile detention pending final judgment and completion of an appeal even if that person is standing trial as an adult. It prohibits holding a juvenile in adult jail for more than 180 days unless a court deems it necessary. And it instructs minors to be moved to a juvenile detention facility if they had been certified before Aug. 28, 2021, unless it’s established the person should stay in the adult facility through a hearing. 

The feminine hygiene product availability as well as certain provisions pertaining to juveniles contain emergency clauses. 

After some hiccups, the legislation made it out of session without a controversial provision from the House that would have granted the General Assembly subpoena power — a piece the governor publicly threatened would derail the entire bill.